Last of Our Kind does not exactly show a “musical evolution” for The Darkness.
Since its inception way back in 2000, there has been one prevailing question about The Darkness: “Are they serious?” After all the band’s musical sound, album covers, look and lyrics are all so hopelessly trapped in the metal of the early 1980s that this must be a joke, right?
That’s what labels said until they finally got their record deal and tore up the charts with the infectious and (possibly???) tongue-in-cheek single “I Believe in a Thing Called Love.” Here’s the deal, however, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” was released well over a decade ago and The Darkness has continued to produce glorious shlock over the last ten years.
Last of Our Kind does not exactly show a “musical evolution” for The Darkness and, in fact, shows the British Band at quite possibly their most Spinal Tap musically and lyrically. Beginning with a nearly hilarious voice over, Last of Our Kind kicks off with the track “Barbarian.” This starting track introduces the medieval themes to be found on the album as a whole and actually includes the lyrics, “In case you were all wondering; We’re the sons of Ragnar!” No, Spinal Tap did not come up with those words first, but should have.
And this pastiche continues throughout Last of Our Kind, as the record at large proves to be something of a quasi-concept album following the ideas introduced in the opening track. The band meanders through heavy rockers with near-infinite octave changes as well as resurrections of the extinct “Heavy Metal Ballad.” If that’s not enough for you, “Hammer & Tongs” even brings back the Blues Rock of the 1980s bands that The Darkness pays tribute to and apes (maybe) in so many ways.
As the title track “Last of Our Kind” takes over, the phrase “truer words were never spoken” comes to mind. Why is this? They may well be hopelessly trapped in another decade (hell, even stalwarts like Judas Priest have reinvented themselves throughout the years), but at some point this, quite simply, does not matter. The Darkness are technically proficient and talented in their reinterpretation of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and beyond. There may be a hundred or even a thousand bands who strive to pay tribute to the thundering, unselfconscious macho posturing of the 1980s heavy metal bands, but The Darkness actually captures the sound, the largess, the grandiosity and the adrenalized heart of that very style of music perfectly. There were thousands of bands like them in the 1980s. The Darkness sounds, in 2015, like they could actually thrive in that era.
All of this, of course, depends on your taste. Whether The Darkness is serious or a joke, if you like this style of music, they will certainly float your proverbial sail barge. If not, you’ll probably seek your bass and treble elsewhere. That said, what they do may be specialized, but what they do is done remarkably well. The drums and four-string rhythms are heavy, the vocals are all over the spectrum and the guitar leads are precise and exciting.
This fourth album was produced by guitarist Dan Hawkins who proves to be a genius with this style of music, especially when evoking the most primal wails of his brother, vocalist Justin Hawkins. The question remains: are The Darkness serious or are they some kind of self-aware joke that both pays tribute to and sends up the genre they have cocooned themselves in? Listening to Last of Our Kind answers that question with a resounding “WHO FUCKING CARES?” No matter how The Darkness approached their chosen genre, they truly are the last masters. “Children, we are the last of their kind!” screams Justin Hawkins. After listening to the album that takes its name from that chorus, we believe him!